Press Release
December 1, 2015


As government paves the way for the building of more coal-fired power plants to meet the country's power requirement, leading presidential candidate Sen. Grace Poe cautioned against damaging the environment and driving away indigenous groups in the process.

Poe expressed concern over reports that linked coal-mine projects to the displacement of Lumad families in Surigao del Sur. Around 3,000 Lumad were reported to have fled to the 60,000-hectare Andap Valley complex after being threatened by paramilitary forces in Lianga town.

The Andap Valley, which sprawls across nine towns, is said to hold the largest coal block reserve in the world. At least seven mining companies are either exploring or operating in the area.

"The government must protect the rights of indigenous peoples to their ancestral domains, as stated under the law, and under no circumstances should our own people be evicted from land that is rightfully theirs," Poe said.

"No power project is worth a people's economic, social and cultural well-being," she added.

The senator said local government units (LGUs) should make sure that all proposed energy infrastructure projects would adhere to the Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act of 1997, which recognizes and promotes the rights of indigenous cultural communities and indigenous peoples within the framework of national unity and development.

"In the face of any construction project-whether it's a power plant or mall or office building-LGUs should study whether their constituents truly need the structure, what its environment impact will be and how it will benefit the people," Poe said.

"We are not against development-it is, after all, a source of much-needed employment. What we want is to strive for balance between economic needs, environmental preservation and the protection of the rights of the marginalized," she said.

The independent presidential candidate also warned against increased dependence on coal as a source of power, citing concerns that coal-fired power plants are among the biggest sources of man-made carbon dioxide emissions.

Poe is pushing for a shift to renewable energy and alternative technologies instead. "We can't truly pledge to reduce our carbon footprint if we continue to expand coal projects. While proponents claim it is a relatively cheaper source of power, its costs to our health and the environment might be higher in the long run," she said.

The Philippines is set to push for increased support for climate change mitigation and adaptation at the 21st Conference of Parties in Paris. The Philippines chairs the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a group of 20 nations most affected by the impacts of climate change.

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